I was searching the archives for a fun photo to share and decided on the above. Unfortunately, like many photos in the archives, it was essentially unidentified, because in this case, I discovered that the photo was misidentified.
The caption on the back of the photo reads “Mrs. America #18 1980.” I tried to find some additional context by using the The Dallas Morning News archives, something along the lines of ‘Mrs. America contestants visit museum,’ or even ‘Mrs. America pageant held in Dallas,’ but there was nothing. A search for the history of the Mrs. America pageant showed that it was held in Las Vegas, so a visit to the DMA seemed highly unlikely. Then, with both the pageant and date now in question, I took a closer look at the titles on the sashes, and searched for “Mrs. Texas International.”
I was now fairly certain that the women in the photo were contestants in the Mrs. International pageant, which was also licensed as Mrs. USA, but I still didn’t have a date. I started to search the states visible on the sashes of the Mrs. International pageant participants in hopes of identifying one of them to determine the date. Luckily for me, the Mrs. Ohio website came through and included past winners with photos. I was able to identify Mrs. Ohio as 1989 winner Ruth Coffman, thus providing the date for the photo.
In addition to an amusing image, this became a fun way to demonstrate just one of the many types of things I do in the DMA Archives.
Hillary Bober is the Archivist for the Dallas Museum of Art.